Panthers Blank Blueshirts, 4-0

by: Brian Bohl | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Monday, December 1, 2008

NEW YORK — Considering the Rangers torrid start, specifically at Madison Square Garden, the rancor that engulfed the self-proclaimed world’s most famous arena Sunday afternoon was just a bit hyperbolic.

But the fans were not in a forgiving mood even if the Rangers entered the contest tied with Boston for the most points in the Eastern Conference.

Goalie Henrik Lundqvist was pulled for the second time in three home games after allowing two goals in a 12-second span, defenseman Michal Rozsival was booed nearly every time he touched the puck and the fruitless power play heard derisive chants on every unsuccessful setup as the Blueshirts fell, 4-0, to the Florida Panthers in the matinee.

Lundqvist, a potential All-Star for his torrid play this season, was pulled with nearly four minutes left in the second period after allowing two goals in 12 seconds and three goals in less than seven minutes. The netminder entered with a 15-5-2 record and a 2.11 goals against average, though defensive breakdowns shortened his outing.

“It’s a wakeup call,” Lundqvist said. “They worked hard and out-played us in the second period.”

Florida out-shot the Rangers, 16-7, in the second period. Rookie center Michael Frolik, who assisted on the second goal, added the last tally against backup Steve Valiquette one minute into the third for the insurance marker.

“I thought we played a decent first,” said Markus Naslund, the Rangers’ leading scorer who registered five shots but was minus-3 in the contest. “It is unfortunate [but these] things happen. For us, being down a goal or tow, we have to tighten it up. It has to be the whole unit.”

Ville Peltonen broke open a scoreless tie 9:55 into the second. Rozsival got caught pinching in and Marc Stall slipped in the neutral zone trying to backpedal, allowing Peltonen to skate in and finish the breakaway chance.

Just 6:06 later, Stephen Weiss extended the lead by digging the puck out of the corner and lifting a backhand shot in the slot over Lundqvist’s shoulder. Gregory Campbell followed 12 seconds later, scoring off former Ranger Radek Dvorak’s one-time feed to make it 3-0. The scoring barrage prompted coach Tom Renney to insert Valiquette just to shake things up.

“If I don’t get the chance to finish the game, I’m upset,” said Lundqvist, who threw his stick on the bench in disgust after getting yanked. “If you think I’m going to sit on the bench and smile, you don’t know me.”

Renney said the move wasn’t to single out Lundqvist, but instead was made to put the forward and defensemen on notice. The Rangers power play finished 0-5, including an unsuccessful 5-on-3 chance in the third.

"Henrik was playing well. That wasn't the issue at all," Renney said. "I'm not sure about the skaters.”

Goaltending wasn’t near the top of the list of Rangers problems. The club was shut-out for the first time in a loss this season. Panthers goalie Craig Anderson ensured Peltonen’s tally would stand up, turning aside all 37 shots to record his fourth career shutout.

“We’re embarrassed,” Scott Gomez said. “It hurts, but we’re going to try and wash this one away.”

The Rangers actually won the last time it did not score a goal in regulation, getting credit for a 1-0 victory over Toronto after both goaltenders posted shutouts and the Blueshirts won in a shootout. Following a two-day break, the Rangers will try and wash away the loss by hosting the Penguins Wednesday night.